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The Opportunity in Adversity

By Eckhart Tolle

Life unfolds between the polarities of order and chaos. It is important at this time to recognize these two fundamental opposites, without which the world could not even be. Another word for disorder is “adversity.” When it becomes more extreme, we might call it “chaos.”

We would prefer, of course, to have order in our lives, which means to have things going well. We would like relative harmony in our lives. Yet, that very often is marred by the eruption of some form of disorder. And, usually, we resent that—we get angry, or despondent, or sad.

Disorder comes in many, many forms, big and small. When disorder comes it usually creates a kind of havoc in our lives, accompanied by strong underlying beliefs. “There’s something very wrong, this should not be happening, maybe God is against me,” and so on. Again, we need to understand that disorder, or adversity, is inevitable and is an essential part of a higher order.

 From a higher perspective, a higher level, the existence of order and disorder, or order and chaos, is a necessary part of the evolution of life.

 Many people have found that they experience a deepening, or a deeper sense of self or beingness, immediately after and as a result of having endured a period of disorder or chaos. This is sometimes called “the dark night of the soul,” a term from medieval Christianity used to describe the mental breakdown that many mystics experienced prior to awakening spiritually. There was an eruption of disorder, of destruction. Then, out of that, a deeper realization arose.

 And although that can be very painful, the strange thing is, it’s precisely there that many humans experience a transcendence. A strange fact is that it almost never happens that people awaken spiritually while they’re in their comfort zone. Or that they become deeper as human beings, which would be a partial awakening. It almost never happens. The place where the evolutionary shift happens, or the evolutionary leap, is usually the experience of disorder in a person’s life.

And so your life then moves between order and disorder. You have both, and they’re both necessary. There’s no guarantee that when disorder erupts this will bring about an awakening or a deepening, but there’s always the possibility. It is an opportunity, but often, it is missed.

 So here we are at this time, and our mission is the same: to align with the present moment, with whatever is happening here and now. The upheaval that we’re experiencing at the present time probably will not be the last upheaval that’s going to come on a collective level. However, it is an opportunity—because although this is a time for upheavals, it is also a time for awakening. The two go together. Just as in an individual life, you need adversity to awaken. It’s an opportunity but not a guarantee. And so what looks tragic and unpleasant on a conventional level is actually perfectly fine and as it should be on a higher level; it would not be happening otherwise. It’s all part of the awakening of human beings and of planetary awakening.

To learn more about Eckhart’s teachings on Conscious Manifestation, click here.

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Stop Asking Couples When They Are Having Kids

“So, when are you having kids?” my aunt asked me soon after I got married. At that point, I had just been married for a few months. I didn’t even know *if* I wanted kids, much less *when* I was having them.

Caught off guard, I replied matter-of-factly, “I have not decided if I want to have kids.” Little did I realize that I would spend the next hour listening to stories of women who put off having children until it was too late, as well as women who had difficulty conceiving for various reasons, with the implicit message being that I was going to regret it if I didn’t hurry and work on producing babies.

This would be my life for the next few years, where I would receive constant questions around “When are you having kids?” from relatives and random people, followed by a routine, almost ritualistic pressurization to have kids.

Lest you think that it ends after having a child, it doesn’t. The people who previously tried to tell you to have “just one kid” when you were indifferent to the idea, will now tell you to have a second one, along with reasons why you should do so. It seems like this questioning process never ends.

The problem with asking people “When are you having kids?”

I understand why people like to ask this question. Find a partner, settle down, get married, and have kids. This is the life path that we’ve been taught to follow since young. This is the life script that we’ve been told is *the* way of life, that would bring us ultimate joy and happiness.

This is especially so in the Chinese culture, where having kids is seen as the ultimate goal in life. There are even sayings built around this notion, such as 生儿育女 (shēng ér yù nǚ), which means to birth sons and raise daughters, and 子孙满堂 (zǐ sūn mǎn táng), which means to be in a room filled with children and grandchildren, used to signify the epitome of happiness.

Multi-Generation Chinese Family at the Park

A multi-generation family, often used to depict a vision of happiness in the Chinese culture

So after you get married, people automatically assume that you should have kids. “When are you having kids?” they ask, somehow expecting you to give them a straight answer to what is really a personal question.

The problem with this question is that it’s rude. It’s presumptuous. It’s also insensitive.

1) There are many different paths to happiness

Firstly, everyone has their own path in life. Some people want kids, while some don’t. Some think that having kids is the greatest joy in life, while some see them as a burden. At the end of the day, having kids isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. There are significant ups and downs that come with having a kid, and for some people, the ups do not justify the downs. For these people, it may simply be better to remain childless, rather than having kids just to fit in or to fit societal expectations, and then set their lives up for unhappiness. To assume that everyone should have kids, just because you think that having kids is great and important, is rude and disregards that person’s own preferences in life.

For example, Oprah Winfrey is an inspiring woman and humanitarian who chose not to have kids, but has instead dedicated herself to her personal life purpose of serving the world. Oprah hosted her talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show for 25 years, founded a leadership academy for girls and became a mother figure to the girls in attendance, and started her own television network. These are things that most do not get to do in their lifetime. Through the years, she has inspired millions and become a champion for people worldwide. As she says,

“When people were pressuring me to get married and have children, I knew I was not going to be a person that ever regretted not having them, because I feel like I am a mother to the world’s children. Love knows no boundaries. It doesn’t matter if a child came from your womb or if you found that person at age two, 10, or 20. If the love is real, the caring is pure and it comes from a good space, it works.” — Oprah[1]

Is she not being a responsible or purposeful person or woman by choosing not to have kids? Definitely not. In fact, I dare say that she lives a much more purposeful life than many in the world, including some people who choose to have kids.

There are many famous celebrities who have chosen not to have kids as well.

  • Chelsea Handler is a talk show host who chose not to have kids. She has said honestly in interviews that she doesn’t have the time to raise a child, and she doesn’t want her kids to be raised by a nanny.[2][3]
  • Betty White is an actress and comedian who chose not to have kids because she’s passionate about her career and she prefers to focus on it.[4]
  • Ashley Judd is an actress and politican activist who chose not to have kids because she feels that there are already so many orphaned kids in this world. To her, her resources can be better used to help those who are already here, and I respect her for such a noble choice.[5]

And then there are others, such as Cameron Diaz, Chow Yun Fat, Marisa Tomei (the actress for Peter Parker’s aunt in Tom Holland’s Spider Man film series), Renée Zellweger, and Rachael Ray. These people choose not to have kids for different reasons, such as because they’re already pursuing paths deeply meaningful to them, because they do not wish to be tied down with a child, or because they just don’t feel a deep desire to have kids.

Not having kids has not prevented these people from being happy in life, and there’s no reason to assume why people must have kids in order to be happy. People need to stop painting this narrative that one must have children in order to be happy. There are plenty of people with kids who are unhappy, and plenty of people without kids who have found inner fulfillment in life through other ways. There is no one path to happiness, and people need to realize that.

2) You may well cause hurt and pain

Secondly, you never know what others are going through.

Some people may want kids, but maybe they are facing fertility struggles. For example,

  • Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan went through three miscarriages before having their firstborn.[6]
  • The Obamas had a miscarriage before they had their daughters via IVF.[7]
  • Friends star Courteney Cox had a total of seven miscarriages before having her daughter, as she has a MTHFR gene mutation which raises the risk of miscarriage-causing blood clots.[8]

About 10% of women have difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant,[9] while 13.5% of known pregnancies end in miscarriages, with the figure rising as the maternal age rises.[10]

For some people, the journey to conceive is fraught with deep pain, struggle, and losses as they experience miscarriages, undergo round after round of invasive fertility treatments, and wait in hope of the double blue lines on their pregnancy kit each month.

And then there are people who cannot have their own biological children due to issues with their reproductive system, which could have been there since birth.

Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, and family

Barack and Michelle Obama had a miscarriage before they had their daughters via IVF

While you may be think that you’re being helpful or funny by asking people when they’re having kids, your question may well trigger hurt and pain. As Zuckerberg said,

“You feel so hopeful when you learn you’re going to have a child. You start imagining who they’ll become and dreaming of hopes for their future. You start making plans, and then they’re gone. It’s a lonely experience.”[6]

3) Not everyone is in a place to have kids

Thirdly, having kids is simply not a reality for some people due to their circumstances in life.

Some people may lack the financial resources to have kids, a reality in a place like Singapore.

Some people may be facing problems with their marriage, in which case their priority should be to work on their marriage, not to have kids.

Some people may be so burdened with caring for their dependents that they are unable to consider kids, at least not at the moment.

And then there are people facing chronic health issues, issues that you don’t know and can’t see, which make pregnancy difficult due to the toll it would take on their body.

4) Some couples could still be thinking

And then there are people who are neutral to the idea of having kids, like myself when I just got married. These people need time to think it through, because having kids is a permanent, lifelong decision with serious consequences. There’s no reason to assume that having a kid should be an automatic decision, because you’re bringing a whole new life into this world. This is a decision that will change your life forever, as well as the life of the child you’re bringing into the world.

For those yet to have kids, they need the space to figure out what they want, not have people breathe down their neck day in and out about having kids.

My experience

For the initial years after I got married, I just wasn’t thinking about kids. Firstly, having a child is a lifelong decision, and I wanted to enjoy married life with my husband before diving into a decision as serious as that. Secondly, both my husband and I were genuinely happy spending the rest of our lives with just each other — we didn’t feel the need to have kids at all, not in the way my culture obsesses about it. Thirdly, my husband was dealing with some personal problems, and I was fully focused on supporting him through these. These were issues that we needed to sort through before considering kids, if we were to want kids.

Yet I kept getting nudges to have kids, even though I never said anything about wanting them.

“So, when are you having kids?”

“This person’s baby is so cute, isn’t it? Why don’t you hurry up and birth a baby?”

It was as if I was some vehicle, some production machine to have kids, where my own views in the matter didn’t matter. The most frustrating thing was that I kept getting this question, while my husband would never get it (as a man), not even when we were in the same room together.

It was as if my sole reason for existence as a woman was to have kids, and until I had them, I was regarded as unworthy or incomplete.

The decision to have kids

Yet the decision to have children is a personal one. It is also a complex one. It is a decision that will permanently change the lives of the couple in question.

It is not a decision that one should be pressurized into making because their mom wants to carry grandchildren or their aunt wants to play with kids. It’s a decision that a couple should make because they genuinely want to nurture another life.

Because when a child is born, the people bugging others to have kids aren’t the ones who will be caring for the baby 24/7, whose lives will be set back by years (even decades) as they care for a new life, or who will be responsible for every decision concerning the child for the next 18-21 years.

It will be the couple.

And the people who aren’t ready, who were pressured into having kids because they were told that it was the best thing to do, may have to deal with regret as they are stuck with a decision they cannot undo. Because there are people who regret having kids, and we need to be honest about that. These people regret, not because of the child’s fault, but because they were simply not ready to have kids, be it financially, emotionally, or mentally. Unfortunately, the children are the ones who eventually suffer, from living in dysfunctional households to dealing with issues of violenceabuse, and anger.

We need to recognize these realities, and not make parenthood seem like it’s some magical band-aid that solves a lack of purpose or life’s pressures. Things don’t magically get better because people have kids; existing problems usually worsen as having a child puts a big strain on a couple’s lives. Digging into people’s plans to have kids, and pressurizing them into one of the biggest life decisions they can ever make, will only stress them out and perhaps push some into depression. As this redditor shared,

“I have a friend who went through 6 years of miscarriages and fertility treatments before the doctors figured out the problem and she had her son. The nosy ladies at her work and her in-laws questioned her constantly. The depression from that made it harder for her to conceive.”

Stop asking couples when they’re having kids

So, if you tend to ask others when they’re having kids, it’s time to stop that. It’s rude, insensitive, and it disregards people’s privacy. It’s also none of your business.

The reality is that if people want kids, they will work on having kids. They don’t need you to prod them about it.

If they don’t have kids, it’s either because

  1. they really don’t want kids,
  2. they are not in a position to consider kids right now, or
  3. they want kids but they are facing some struggles.

For people in group (c), they aren’t going to share such deeply personal experience over some afternoon coffee chat, and certainly not by you asking, “When are you having kids?”

The best thing you can do is to give people their personal space. Understand that having kids is a personal decision, and people don’t have to share or explain anything. Respect that others have their right to privacy. Respect that people are individuals on their own path, and this path may not involve having kids. And this doesn’t make them incomplete or lesser in any way.

Instead of asking women or couples, “When are you having kids?”, talk to them like how you would a normal person. There’s no reason why conversations should suddenly revolve around childbearing after marriage; it’s not like a person’s identity changes to revolve around having kids. A person still has their own passion, goals, and dreams. Talk to them about what they’ve been doing. Understand their interests. Know them as a real person, not some random being here to fulfill society’s checklist.

If you’re really interested in someone’s plan to have children, you can simply ask, “Are you and your partner planning to have kids?” If they wish to share more, they will do so. If they give a generic answer, then take the hint and move on.

Ultimately, having kids or not doesn’t change a person’s self-worth. A woman is complete with or without kids. A marriage doesn’t need kids to be deemed complete. Having kids should be a conscious choice, not a result of external pressure. Don’t judge people by whether they have kids or not. Some people will have kids, and some people will not have kids. Some will have kids early, while some will have them later in life. All of these are different paths and there’s nothing wrong with them.

For Me

For my husband and I, we eventually had a few discussions and decided to have a baby, and had our baby girl this year (2020). 😊 Yet other people’s comments and nudges to have children didn’t make me want to have children; it only annoyed me and made me want to avoid these people, because having a child is a personal decision between me and my husband, that has nothing to do with them. It was after we had the space to settle down and enjoy married life without kids, and took some time to actively pursue our goals and interests, that we finally felt ready to try for a kid last year.

In the meantime, I hope all of you are doing well. There are other things that I’m working on, other things that are happening that I look forward to sharing in time to come. Sending lots of love to you, and remember that whatever life challenge you’re facing, you have it in you to overcome it. I’ll talk to you guys soon! 🙂

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Note: This was originally written for my weekly newsletter. You can sign up for it here

Welcome to another Mindf*ck Monday, the only weekly newsletter where the ideas are as good as the jokes are bad. Each week, I send you three potentially life-changing ideas to help you be a slightly less awful human being. This week, we’re talking three popular ways to “get better” — 1) therapy, 2) journaling, and 3) meditation—and why I believe they’re all actually kinda the same thing.

Let’s get into it.

Therapy

Why does Talking to Someone About Our Problems Make Us Feel Better? 

Therapy, as a whole, has a great and reliable track record as a tool to help people. Most people who stick with therapy for more than a few months, reliably increase well-being and show fewer symptoms of anxiety/depression. What’s more, the longer people stick with therapy, the greater they tend to  benefit. The research is overwhelmingly in therapy’s favor. It works. It helps people.

But… here’s the plot twist: we still don’t really know why it works

Psychology has produced as many forms of therapy as Adam Sandler has cheesy rom-com movies. The field is an alphabet soup of modalities. You’ve got CBT, AEDP, DBT, IPT, ACT, CPP, SFBT and REBT. You’ve got gestalt, existential, schema, Jungian, interpersonal, Rogerian, humanistic, regression, psychoanalysis, and, of course, everyone’s favorite, family therapy.

Each of these modalities offers a unique framework and its own philosophy. Each one constructs a unique view of the human mind and creates its own approach to attacking pathology and mental illness.

Man on the couch - therapy

With so many approaches to therapy, a few decades ago, researchers rightly became curious about which therapies were the most effective, which ones worked. So they ran hundreds of experiments to measure which therapies produced the best results. And the answer will probably surprise you.

All of them did.

All of them work, to some extent. Pretty much every modality produces, on average, relatively similar results. All of them work decently but not perfectly. Some may work slightly better for certain problems than others (i.e., CBT seems to be marginally better for anxiety). But on the whole, just the fact you’re doing therapy has way, way, way more impact than the type you choose to do.

This is kind of stunning. Because it suggests that for all of the theorizing and frameworking over the last 150 years, from Sigmund Freud to Dr. Phil, the content of the therapy itself isn’t that important. In fact, dozens of studies have struggled to find much measurable benefit to the therapist’s training or credentials. Many studies show that people benefit speaking to amateurs just as much as they do professionals. So, not only does the modality seem to not matter, but the therapist’s credentials don’t even seem to matter that much either.

What’s important is simply getting a person in a room regularly to talk about their problems to another human being. That’s the 1% that drives 99% of the results. The value of therapy isn’t the therapy. It’s the context. It’s the environment. You’re paying to have a place to go where you can sort out your shit in front of someone and not be judged for it. Everything else—the fancy acronyms and degrees and frameworks—seems to merely be an excuse to get you into that room and into that social context.

Journaling

Why does Writing Down All Our Crazy Thoughts Make Us Feel Better?

So, if most of the value of therapy is merely getting into a room and critically discussing your own thoughts, ideas, and emotions, couldn’t we reproduce that in other ways? Couldn’t you simply call up a trusted friend and do that?

Sure, many people do. But there’s another way that maybe isn’t so obvious.

Journaling.

For most of human history, journaling was not something you did for mental health or self-care, it was simply something any educated person did to help themselves think. Benjamin Franklin, Charles Darwin, Leonardo Da Vinci, Marie Curie, and Winston Churchill were just a few of history’s avid journalers.

It wasn’t until the 1960s and 70s that psychologists considered the idea that journaling may offer therapeutic benefits. Many started to experiment with the practice with their patients. The research caught up and showed that indeed, journaling is very effective at promoting mental health and well-being. Today, many therapists and counselors actively encourage their clients to journal as a supplement to their sessions.

Man journaling under lamp

The mental health benefits of journaling likely mirror the benefits of talk therapy—there is something mysteriously powerful about verbalizing your thoughts and feelings; it somehow causes them to lose their power over you.

But let’s go one layer deeper. Why does verbalizing our thoughts and feelings somehow make them have less of a grip on us? If you’ve read my shit for a long time now, you probably already know what I’m going to say:

I’ve got a theory.

Meditation

Why does Sitting on the Floor and Counting our Breaths Make Us Feel Better?

I remember the first time I meditated, it was this kooky “eastern spiritual” thing that one of my high school teachers thought would be cool to show us. It was the late 90s and back then, meditation was still an exotic novelty, a weird thing reserved for hippies and mystics. No one I knew took it seriously.

Twenty years later, meditation has gone mainstream. It’s now regularly practiced in board rooms, conferences, seminars, prisons, schools, and churches. Meditation apps have taken off and become a multi-billion dollar industry. Today, meditation is not only normal, but it’s hip. It’s something you kinda brag to people about the way people used to brag about going to the gym.

So far we’ve covered that therapy works because you are verbalizing your thoughts and feelings (therefore loosening their grip on you) and receiving non-judgmental feedback from another person. Journaling works in a similar way—it allows you to verbalize your thoughts and feelings to yourself and then respond to them nonjudgmentally.

I would argue that meditation is effective because it does the exact same thing, it just skips the verbalizing.

Woman meditating on deck

The philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer wrote that consciousness consists of two parts: the subject and the object. Think of the subject as “the seer” and the object as “the seen.” Both aspects are required in consciousness—there is always something being “seen” and always something doing the “seeing.”

Generally, we are the subject of our consciousness and some external thing is the object. This keyboard I am typing on is currently the object of my consciousness. The food I will have for dinner tonight is the object of my consciousness. The buzzing of my phone is the object of my consciousness.

As long as *I* am the subject and some external thing is the object, then all of my thoughts, feelings, impulses, and desires are bundled up into some intangible subjectivity known as “I” that is not analyzed or considered. This unexamined subject is often referred to as “ego.”

It’s only when we turn our focus on ourselves and make our thoughts and feelings the object of our consciousness that we are able to differentiate them and put them into perspective.

“Oh, I’m feeling sad today and didn’t realize it.” What was once subject (my feeling sad) is now the object of my consciousness, and is thus separated from me. Once separate from me, I can consider my sadness as though it were not me. I can ask why it exists, towards what purpose, is it useful, do I care? This practice of turning one’s subject-base consciousness into the object of one’s consciousness is how self-awareness is formed.

So what do therapy, journaling, and meditation all have in common?

All three are techniques to help us convert what is usually the subject of our consciousness into the object of our consciousness.

That’s it.

They are three tools for building self-awareness and chipping away at the ego. Therapy does this by some thoughtful person inviting us to express our thoughts and feelings. Journaling does this by eliciting us to write about our thoughts and feelings. Meditation does this by teaching us to observe our thoughts and feelings as though they are separate from ourselves.

This is how to get better. To turn the subject into object. To transmute the implicit into the explicit. To shift the internal into external. To move from subjective to objective.

And then, once our thoughts, feelings, and impulses are separated from our “I”—from our ego—we can choose whether we want to keep them and reintegrate them or to simply let them go.

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“OMG — could anything else go wrong?”

Know that feeling? When life keeps piling on problems one on top of another?

Maybe you’re strong enough to handle the first few. But then another gets thrown into the mix. And another. And another. Before you know it, you’re drowning in a sea of stress and overwhelm. You find yourself thinking, “Seriously!?! I can’t take much more. How the heck am I going to overcome all these challenges?!”

In the face of massive problems — or even a pileup of tiny ones — it’s natural to feel defeated. It’s important to acknowledge your feelings of disappointment and even despair. 


You don't need to know the big picture right now. You just need to get moving. 
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But it’s even more important not to dwell there.

In today’s episode, we’ll talk about how to meet life’s challenges head on and create a healthy way forward, even if that sounds near impossible right now.

4 Mantras to Help You Overcome Life’s Tough Challenges

In this clip from a MarieTV call-in show, we talked with Beth, who faced an unexpected business tragedy and was searching for a way forward.

Beth asked, “I lost my business to a fire, and I’m having trouble figuring out who I am, because I was always ‘the bakery lady.’ I don’t know what to do, and I need your help.”

Watch the video and continue reading the post below for the four mantras that can help you find perspective and strength, especially when challenges feel insurmountable.

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Check out this episode on The Marie Forleo Podcast

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Next time you need to overcome challenges in life or business, experiment with one or more of  these mantras. They help you lower stress, regain your personal power, and call forth the fortitude and creativity you’ll need to move forward.

1. “Everything Is Figureoutable”

This first mantra is more than just a fun phrase to say. It’s a practical, actionable discipline to help you operate at your best and overcome life’s thorniest challenges. Live it, breathe it and use it daily. I promise, adopting this as a core belief can make you virtually unstoppable.

Not unstoppable in the sense that everything will always go your way, because we know it won’t. Problems and difficulties are guaranteed in life. 

But unstoppable in the sense that no matter what obstacles or problems come your way, they won’t permanently take you down. Knowing everything is figureoutable means trusting yourself enough to know that you have what it takes to find or make a way forward, no matter what.

If you want to master this philosophy, grab a copy of Everything is Figureoutable today. 

2. “Life Happens FOR Me, Not TO Me”

In my life, whenever things seem to keep going wrong and I problem after problem stacks up, I repeat this mantra: “Life happens FOR me, not TO me.”

It’s a potent reminder that you and you alone are in charge of assigning a meaning to any event that occurs. 

Every challenge, obstacle, and unfortunate situation contains the potential for positive growth, if we’re willing to look for it. No matter what the situation, you have the power to learn something, become stronger, gain wisdom, perspective, and understanding for your future.

For a powerful reminder of the importance of finding the hidden gift of growth in any moment, especially those which are most painful, most difficult, and most heart-breaking, watch this MarieTV with Holocaust survivor Dr. Edith Eger.

Next time you’re faced with an unexpected challenge and find yourself thinking, “Why me?” pause and say, “Okay, this happened and it’s awful. But now what? What’s the potential opportunity? How might this situation help me grow stronger or better in the long-run?”

If you’re ready to train yourself to find the gift of growth in any and every challenge, embrace this mantra — life is happening for you, not to you.

3. “Clarity Comes From Engagement, Not Thought”

Sometimes when you’re working to overcome a big challenge, you get frozen in fear. Analysis paralysis, as they say. Not wanting to make the wrong move, you make no move at all. But being indecisive and can waste tremendous time and cause more harm than good over time.

Early in my career, I spent years wondering if I had what it took to be a dancer. Could I be one? Should I be one? I even fantasized about what it might be like. But I never made a move, until I did.

My biggest mistake? Searching my head for an answer that could only be experienced through my heart.

That experience taught me this crucial lesson: Clarity comes from engagement, not thought.

When you’re trapped in the hell of indecision about the best way around an obstacle, do something about it as quickly as possible. Take some kind of real, tangible action. Make a phone call. Speak with an expert (or 3). Take a class, volunteer, test a possible solution. Doesn’t have to be a big step, just a step in any direction. 

This next piece is important. You don’t need a huge master plan for solving your problem before you take action. That’s not possible or necessary. Start exactly where you are with one small step. Then take another. Then another. Stay focused on engagement, not thought. Feel you way forward. The insight and information you gain from taking action will inform your next steps, and ultimately a more comprehensive long-term plan. 

4. “Everything You Dream of Exists in the Growth Zone”

99.9% of the things you need to do in order to overcome challenges and improve your life are things you haven’t done before. That means it’s natural for you to feel uncertain, insecure and uncomfortable. But as the world’s most resilient and successful people will tell you, one of the best things we can do to overcome challenges is to get comfortable being uncomfortable. 

In other words, get out of your comfort zone and enter your growth zone. Your growth zone is the place just beyond what you’re familiar with. It’s the place where yes, you will be uncomfortable (because it’s unfamiliar), and, it’s the only place you can possibly learn new skills, perspectives and develop new capabilities.  

Look, I get it.  Life feels safe in the comfort zone, because you’re accustomed to the patterns — even if they’re stressful, dysfunctional, or painful. But dreams are only realized in the growth zone. Everything you dream of becoming, achieving, or experiencing exists in this space (a.k.a. the discomfort zone).

This uncomfortable, vulnerable, unfamiliar growth zone is the only place you acquire the skills and strengths you need to overcome this challenge. The growth zone is where you’ll cultivate a new level of inner resolve and find a way forward from this setback.

Then get ready. Because when you spend enough time in your growth zone, something marvelous happens. That previously uncomfortable growth zone becomes your new comfort zone. And you grow stronger, wiser and more capable as a result. 

Bottom Line: You Have What It Takes to Overcome Challenges

 Yes, what you’re facing is tough. But guess what — you’re tougher. Decide right now that nothing is beyond your reach. Success doesn’t happen by chance, it happens by choice. So make the decision right now that yes, you do have what it takes to overcome challenges. 

Sure, you’ll need to learn new skills. And of course, the journey will not be easy. But the goal is not for life to get easier (that’s not going to happen). Instead, we must focus on getting stronger.  

These four mantras can help you unleash your inner strength, stay determined, persevere and ultimately overcome even the most difficult challenges.

Now, let’s turn this insight into action.

Which one of these four mantras resonates most given the challenges you’re working to overcome? 

What’s one small but meaningful action step can you take today?

Leave a comment below and let us know. 

Most importantly, stay positive. Opportunity is often hidden in our most difficult circumstances.

The post 4 Simple Mantras to Help You Overcome Any Challenge appeared first on .

Anything about this is very important

There’s an old allegory about a baby elephant that is tied to a fence post. As the baby elephant tugs and pulls, it fails to break the fence or break the rope. Eventually, it gives up and makes peace with its fate. The baby elephant is stuck.1

But eventually, the elephant grows up and becomes a big, adult elephant with gargantuan legs and a huge tusk and swirly trunk and it could easily walk away from the fence if it wanted to. But believing the fence to be some immovable thing, the adult elephant remains tied to it, falsely believing it can never get away.

What are Limiting Beliefs?

Limiting beliefs are false beliefs that prevent us from pursuing our goals and desires. Limiting beliefs can keep you from doing important things, like applying for your dream job or finding the relationship you want (or leaving the one you don’t want). They can also keep you from doing unimportant things, like skydiving in your underwear or trying out that weird Scotchberry ice cream flavor that looks like baby vomit in a cone.

Our beliefs put boundaries and limitations on what we perceive to be reasonable behavior.2 My belief that stealing is wrong limits me from simply stealing the next car that rolls by, Grand Theft Auto-style. This limiting belief is probably a good one to have. Therefore, we can say that not all limiting beliefs are negative. In fact, we need some limiting beliefs in order to, you know, limit us from doing stupid shit.

But some limiting beliefs unnecessarily hold us back from who we want to become. Like the elephant that remains stuck to the fence post, these limiting beliefs keep us in place without us even realizing it. These are the limiting beliefs I’ll be addressing in this article.

Limiting beliefs typically come in three flavors:

  1. Limiting beliefs about yourself that make you feel like you can’t do something because something is inherently wrong with you.
  2. Limiting beliefs about the world that make you feel like you can’t do something because no one will let you.
  3. Limiting beliefs about life that make you feel like you can’t do something because it’s too difficult.

I’ll go over some common limiting beliefs in each of these categories and then explain how to overcome them at the end. Let’s dive in.

Limiting Beliefs about Yourself

Some of the most impactful limiting beliefs we hold are about ourselves. For example, for many years, I falsely believed I was bad at writing.

I know that sounds insane—a bestselling author who spent most of his younger life believing he was a bad writer. But the truth is that I got poor grades in writing when I was in school. And I took those poor grades at face value: I was bad, so go do something else.

It took me many years to realize that the reason I made bad grades was not because I was a bad writer, but because I never stuck to the assignments. I was the kid who, instead of writing an essay about George Washington, wrote a sci-fi fan fiction imagining that the US government was founded by aliens as an experiment in human democracy.

The teachers hated it. But it’s that “outside the box” thinking that actually made me a good writer.

Nothing holds us back like beliefs about ourselves.3 Especially because so many of our beliefs about ourselves are laden with emotional attachments, insecurities, and baggage that often must be unraveled before we can challenge the belief.

Below are some examples of common limiting beliefs about yourself and how to attack them.

Age

Many people use age as an excuse to not do the things they wish to do. A lot of people think they’re too old to go back to school, change careers, start dating again, or even just learn some new skill.

At the other end of the spectrum, I often hear from people who think they’re too young to apply for an awesome job, move to a new city, or change careers.

You can see how nonsensical these beliefs can be when you realize that sometimes, older and younger people use their age to avoid doing the exact same thing. For example, some people think they’re too old to start a business… while others think they’re too young.

Which one is it?

(Hint: neither.)

Personal traits

Sometimes we think that a personal trait is holding us back in some area of our lives.

  • Maybe you think you’re too dumb to apply for a scholarship, or a certain school, or job, or even just have a conversation about something “smart” with someone.
  • Maybe you think you’re too ugly to talk to anyone who’s even remotely attractive.
  • Maybe you think that because your right leg is slightly shorter than the left, you’ll never look good in a pair of shorts, so you’re relegated to sweating your balls off each and every summer for the rest of your life.

The tough part about limiting beliefs around our personal traits is that we (usually) can’t change them. So if we’ve decided that the world will simply forever hate us because we’re short… well, we will feel doomed by that for the rest of our lives.

Photo by Ashley Batz.

Feelings

Believe it or not, we often use our emotions as a basis for our limiting beliefs:

  • “I can’t meet new people because I’m too depressed and no one will like me.”
  • “I can’t go back to work because I’m too embarrassed.”
  • “I can’t have a good relationship because I’m too angry all the time.”

But there’s a paradox within these sorts of limiting beliefs: what we need to do to deal with these emotions is the very thing we’re avoiding doing.

If you’re depressed and sad, getting out and socializing will help destroy the depression. If you’re easily embarrassed, facing the judgment of others is the only way to get over that embarrassment. If you’re so angry at someone you don’t want to talk to them, chances are that talking to them will help you get over your anger.

Not doing these things is what leads to the vicious cycle of these kinds of limiting beliefs: we don’t do something we should because of our current feelings, and doing nothing leads to more of those feelings. Go figure.

Limiting Beliefs about the World

But limiting beliefs aren’t merely about ourselves. We also adopt many erroneous beliefs about the world.

For example, I had this bizarre idea when I was young. I believed that anybody who talked to me was only doing so because they wanted something from me. Where this idea came from, I don’t know (more on that in a bit). Probably got pushed into too many lockers or spent too many mopey Friday nights alone as a teenager.

The point is that this belief prevented me from trusting people for a long time. And because I wasn’t trusting people, I wasn’t discovering how wrong my belief was.

Below are a number of other examples of limiting beliefs about the world that we succumb to:

Disapproval

Maybe the most common limiting belief revolves around what other people will and won’t allow us to do.

  • “I can’t talk to them because people will think I’m weird.”
  • “I can’t quit grad school because mom and dad will be disappointed.”
  • “I can’t leave my cushy job to take a lower-paying job that I’d enjoy more because people won’t respect me.”
  • “I can’t leave my garbage marriage because I’ll be damaged goods and no one will ever want to be with me again.”

If you’re considering something and your first thought is, “What would people think?” you’ve already lost.

For one, the reality is that people actually don’t care nearly as much as you think they do. They’re too busy worrying about what other people think of themselves to worry about you.

And secondly, even if they don’t approve of what you’re doing, fuck ’em! It’s your life, not theirs.

They don’t have to go to your miserable job every day. They don’t have to stay in the unsatisfying or even toxic relationship you’re in. They don’t have to sit there paralyzed wondering “What if?” for years and years and years.

You do.

Prejudice

Sadly, discrimination and prejudice exist in the world. People are racist and sexist and all sorts of phobics. And while it’s important to know and understand these realities, one also has to be careful to not allow them to prevent you from living your best life. Some examples:

  • “I’m Asian, and women don’t like Asian men, so I’ll never find a girlfriend.”
  • “I’m short, and short people make less money than tall people, so I didn’t try for that promotion.”
  • “I’m a woman, and people don’t listen to women’s ideas, so I’ll just keep quiet at work meetings.”

One way to think about these issues is that while they may be true population-wide, they are not true from individual to individual. Yes, maybe women are talked over more often, but that doesn’t mean that your specific co-workers will talk over you.4

Besides, the only way to overcome these prejudices in society is for individuals to stand up for themselves. Why not be that individual?

Being special

Most of the examples until now have been of limiting beliefs in which we cast ourselves in a particularly negative way. But sometimes limiting beliefs can make us delusionally positive about ourselves. For example, sometimes we think we’re so goddamn special, the world just can’t handle us:

  • “I want to make music, but no one appreciates my eclectic influences.”
  • “I want to write comedy, but no one would understand my sophisticated humor.”
  • “I have a business idea, but nobody understands my vision.”

This is really just a perverse form of entitlement. We think the world owes us something because we’re so special, but the world doesn’t understand our specialness, so why even try? We’ll never get what we’re owed.

But the world doesn’t owe you shit. And really, what’s more likely here: that the entire world doesn’t understand what a unique, special snowflake you are or that… you’re just sniffing your own farts of self-importance?

Limiting Beliefs about Life

Finally, we develop many limiting beliefs around what a “normal” life looks like. Most of these beliefs revolve around time, being too early/late, and what’s real/imaginary.

Missed the boat

This is the “someone’s already done that/tried that/said that/been there” type of limiting belief where we give up before we even start.

  • Wannabe entrepreneurs complain that “someone’s already built that.” But have you ever considered the fact that someone else is already making money off something is actually evidence you should start a business and compete with them?
  • The aspiring novelist laments that their idea has already been written. Hell, write it better!
  • The 40-something divorcee gripes about how everyone their age is already taken.

Underneath it all is the belief that there’s just not enough left for us. There are not enough customers, not enough ideas, not enough money, not enough time, not enough love.

This is bullshit, of course. The world is a big place. There’s plenty of room for you and me and anybody else who wants to dive in.

Time

Possibly the most common excuse I see from people, especially those who are considering a major lifestyle change like changing their diet, exercising more, reading more books, etc., is that old complaint about time:

“I’m too busy. I don’t have the time!”

But you know how they say if someone really likes you, they’ll find a way to spend time with you? Well, if you really want to do something, you’ll find a way to make time for it too.

When someone says, “I don’t have time!” What I hear is, “I don’t care enough!” Because the fact is that if you made that change a priority, you’d clear your schedule and/or re-organize your schedule around it.

And more often than not, what we’re really prioritizing when we “can’t find the time” is being comfortable and “safe.”

We fall into our safe little routines, hide behind our safe outward identities we’ve created, and spend our time on safe little distractions that won’t rock the boat that is our lives too much.

It doesn’t exist

Perhaps the most unshakeable limiting beliefs have to do with what actually exists and what doesn’t exist. Sometimes we choose to believe things are impossible as a way to prevent ourselves from trying and failing to achieve them.

  • Love between two people is fleeting at best and made up at worst, so why even look for it?”
  • Success is just a fabricated ideal created by society to control us, so why do anything?”
  • “Humans are selfish and will always fuck you over, so why ever get close to someone?”

This one is tricky because we almost always buy our own bullshit. We think we’re geniuses, head and shoulders above everyone else. We believe these things are actually real while the rest of society is clearly deluded.5

How to Overcome Your Limiting Beliefs

It’s hard enough to spot your limiting beliefs. It’s even harder to overcome them. But it can be done. Here are some simple steps to help you get started.

Photo by Jukan Tateisi.

1. Ask yourself, “What if I’m wrong?”

Generally, limiting beliefs lose their power as soon as we consider that they may not be true. Can’t date because of your height? What if you’re wrong? Can’t get a promotion because of your gender? What if you’re wrong?

As a mental exercise, adopt the ability to simply question your own beliefs and find alternative possibilities. Challenge yourself to imagine a world where your assumption is incorrect. What would that look like? What would it take?

Usually, it’s far less than you think.

2. Ask yourself, “How is this belief serving me?”

We like to imagine ourselves to be the victims of our own limiting beliefs, but the truth is that we adopt these beliefs because they serve us in some way. The elephant believes she can’t pull away from the fence post because that belief served her at one time—it prevented the strain and struggle of failure.

Generally, we hold onto limiting beliefs for the same reasons—to protect ourselves from struggle and failure.

Also, we often hold onto limiting beliefs because they make us feel special, self-righteous or that we deserve special attention. It’s not fair that I can’t change careers because I’m too old—look at me! Pity me!

Beliefs only stick if they serve us in some way, figure out how your belief is serving you and ask yourself if it’s really worth it or not.

3. Create alternative beliefs

Now it’s time to get creative.

Come up with ways in which you may be wrong. Sure, maybe the average person isn’t attracted to someone your height, but you’re not trying to date the average person, you’re trying to date someone special. And someone special is going to find you attractive the way you are.

Sure, maybe you are older than most people who start a new career, but who says you can’t still be successful? There’s nothing stopping you other than your own mind.

Now obviously, it’s not as simple as choosing a belief and then you just…believe it. No, what you’re doing is getting in the habit of questioning your beliefs (steps 1 and 2 above) and trying out new ones. Sometimes it even helps to write these down. Write down your assumption, and then come up with 4-5 possible alternatives to that assumption.

This forces you to see that not only do you harbor some limiting beliefs, but that you have options. You are choosing what to believe, in each and every moment, even if you don’t realize it.

With repeated practice in noticing your limiting beliefs and imagining new ideas to replace them, you’ll start to notice the thousands of tiny little decisions you make based on your limiting beliefs without even realizing it. You’ll start to notice that the same limiting beliefs that keep you from looking for a new job are the ones that keep you from ordering the sandwich you actually want to eat or wearing the clothes you want to wear—and you’ll see how ridiculous it all is.

And that’s when you’ll have more control over what you choose to believe.6

4. Test those alternative beliefs to see if they might be true

The final step is to treat these alternative beliefs as though they’re hypotheses in an experiment. Now you’ve gotta go try them out and see if they “work.”

Treat it like trying on a new pair of jeans. Adding a new ingredient to a recipe. Taking a new car for a test drive. Enter your favorite cheesy metaphor here.

Until we’re willing to actually see if these alternative beliefs play out in the real world, we can’t be certain of what is true and what is not. And most of the time, we will find that we were actually wrong about what we initially believed. It simply takes the self-awareness to consider that we may have been wrong and have the courage to go out into the world and see if we were wrong.

In many ways, we can be our own worst enemies. We are confined by our own perceptions, constrained by our understanding of true and false.

Challenge your own understanding. Test new ideas. You are never at the full expansion of yourself. There is always room for growth.

Just make sure you aren’t the only one stopping it from happening.


Cover image: Photo by Ryoji Iwata

Footnotes

  1. In psychology, this is called learned helplessness. All sorts of experiments have been done to show that animals, including humans, will “learn” to not take action against harmful stimuli in their environments when they think their actions have no impact. I say “learn” in quotation marks because it turns out that the original theory got it backwards: we actually don’t learn to be helpless, our default is helplessness. Instead we have to learn to take control of our actions. It might seem like a subtle, nitpicky difference, but it actually has huge implications for our lives.
  2. Connors, M. H., & Halligan, P. W. (2015). A cognitive account of belief: A tentative road map. Frontiers in Psychology, 5.
  3. Beliefs like this are what Carol Dweck was referring to as “fixed mindsets” in her now-famous book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. A fixed mindset is one in which we believe we just are the way we are and there’s not a lot we can do about it. A growth mindset, on the other hand, is a mindset in which we believe that our skills and capabilities can be learned, improved upon, and cultivated.
  4. Women actually are interrupted more often than men. See: Smith-Lovin, L., & Brody, C. (1989). Interruptions in Group Discussions: The Effects of Gender and Group Composition. American Sociological Review, 54(3), 424-435.
  5. This is a particularly screwed up example of the Dunning-Kruger effect, which is the tendency for people to think they are better than they actually are in various areas of their lives. See: Kruger, J., & Dunning, D. (1999). Unskilled and unaware of it: How difficulties in recognizing one’s own incompetence lead to inflated self-assessments. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77(6), 1121–1134.
  6. People who believe they have control over important parts of their lives—even what they believe—have what’s called an internal locus of control. People with an external locus of control, on the other hand, believe they have little control over what happens to them. Guess which type of person fares better in just about every area ever studied? See: Ryan, RM & Deci, EL 2008, ‘A self-determination theory approach to psychotherapy: The motivational basis for effective change.’, Canadian Psychology/Psychologie canadienne, vol. 49, no. 3, pp. 186–193.

who else gets self-improvement ?

“OMG — could anything else go wrong?”

Know that feeling? When life keeps piling on problems one on top of another?

Maybe you’re strong enough to handle the first few. But then another gets thrown into the mix. And another. And another. Before you know it, you’re drowning in a sea of stress and overwhelm. You find yourself thinking, “Seriously!?! I can’t take much more. How the heck am I going to overcome all these challenges?!”

In the face of massive problems — or even a pileup of tiny ones — it’s natural to feel defeated. It’s important to acknowledge your feelings of disappointment and even despair. 


You don't need to know the big picture right now. You just need to get moving. 
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But it’s even more important not to dwell there.

In today’s episode, we’ll talk about how to meet life’s challenges head on and create a healthy way forward, even if that sounds near impossible right now.

4 Mantras to Help You Overcome Life’s Tough Challenges

In this clip from a MarieTV call-in show, we talked with Beth, who faced an unexpected business tragedy and was searching for a way forward.

Beth asked, “I lost my business to a fire, and I’m having trouble figuring out who I am, because I was always ‘the bakery lady.’ I don’t know what to do, and I need your help.”

Watch the video and continue reading the post below for the four mantras that can help you find perspective and strength, especially when challenges feel insurmountable.

View Transcript

Check out this episode on The Marie Forleo Podcast

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Next time you need to overcome challenges in life or business, experiment with one or more of  these mantras. They help you lower stress, regain your personal power, and call forth the fortitude and creativity you’ll need to move forward.

1. “Everything Is Figureoutable”

This first mantra is more than just a fun phrase to say. It’s a practical, actionable discipline to help you operate at your best and overcome life’s thorniest challenges. Live it, breathe it and use it daily. I promise, adopting this as a core belief can make you virtually unstoppable.

Not unstoppable in the sense that everything will always go your way, because we know it won’t. Problems and difficulties are guaranteed in life. 

But unstoppable in the sense that no matter what obstacles or problems come your way, they won’t permanently take you down. Knowing everything is figureoutable means trusting yourself enough to know that you have what it takes to find or make a way forward, no matter what.

If you want to master this philosophy, grab a copy of Everything is Figureoutable today. 

2. “Life Happens FOR Me, Not TO Me”

In my life, whenever things seem to keep going wrong and I problem after problem stacks up, I repeat this mantra: “Life happens FOR me, not TO me.”

It’s a potent reminder that you and you alone are in charge of assigning a meaning to any event that occurs. 

Every challenge, obstacle, and unfortunate situation contains the potential for positive growth, if we’re willing to look for it. No matter what the situation, you have the power to learn something, become stronger, gain wisdom, perspective, and understanding for your future.

For a powerful reminder of the importance of finding the hidden gift of growth in any moment, especially those which are most painful, most difficult, and most heart-breaking, watch this MarieTV with Holocaust survivor Dr. Edith Eger.

Next time you’re faced with an unexpected challenge and find yourself thinking, “Why me?” pause and say, “Okay, this happened and it’s awful. But now what? What’s the potential opportunity? How might this situation help me grow stronger or better in the long-run?”

If you’re ready to train yourself to find the gift of growth in any and every challenge, embrace this mantra — life is happening for you, not to you.

3. “Clarity Comes From Engagement, Not Thought”

Sometimes when you’re working to overcome a big challenge, you get frozen in fear. Analysis paralysis, as they say. Not wanting to make the wrong move, you make no move at all. But being indecisive and can waste tremendous time and cause more harm than good over time.

Early in my career, I spent years wondering if I had what it took to be a dancer. Could I be one? Should I be one? I even fantasized about what it might be like. But I never made a move, until I did.

My biggest mistake? Searching my head for an answer that could only be experienced through my heart.

That experience taught me this crucial lesson: Clarity comes from engagement, not thought.

When you’re trapped in the hell of indecision about the best way around an obstacle, do something about it as quickly as possible. Take some kind of real, tangible action. Make a phone call. Speak with an expert (or 3). Take a class, volunteer, test a possible solution. Doesn’t have to be a big step, just a step in any direction. 

This next piece is important. You don’t need a huge master plan for solving your problem before you take action. That’s not possible or necessary. Start exactly where you are with one small step. Then take another. Then another. Stay focused on engagement, not thought. Feel you way forward. The insight and information you gain from taking action will inform your next steps, and ultimately a more comprehensive long-term plan. 

4. “Everything You Dream of Exists in the Growth Zone”

99.9% of the things you need to do in order to overcome challenges and improve your life are things you haven’t done before. That means it’s natural for you to feel uncertain, insecure and uncomfortable. But as the world’s most resilient and successful people will tell you, one of the best things we can do to overcome challenges is to get comfortable being uncomfortable. 

In other words, get out of your comfort zone and enter your growth zone. Your growth zone is the place just beyond what you’re familiar with. It’s the place where yes, you will be uncomfortable (because it’s unfamiliar), and, it’s the only place you can possibly learn new skills, perspectives and develop new capabilities.  

Look, I get it.  Life feels safe in the comfort zone, because you’re accustomed to the patterns — even if they’re stressful, dysfunctional, or painful. But dreams are only realized in the growth zone. Everything you dream of becoming, achieving, or experiencing exists in this space (a.k.a. the discomfort zone).

This uncomfortable, vulnerable, unfamiliar growth zone is the only place you acquire the skills and strengths you need to overcome this challenge. The growth zone is where you’ll cultivate a new level of inner resolve and find a way forward from this setback.

Then get ready. Because when you spend enough time in your growth zone, something marvelous happens. That previously uncomfortable growth zone becomes your new comfort zone. And you grow stronger, wiser and more capable as a result. 

Bottom Line: You Have What It Takes to Overcome Challenges

 Yes, what you’re facing is tough. But guess what — you’re tougher. Decide right now that nothing is beyond your reach. Success doesn’t happen by chance, it happens by choice. So make the decision right now that yes, you do have what it takes to overcome challenges. 

Sure, you’ll need to learn new skills. And of course, the journey will not be easy. But the goal is not for life to get easier (that’s not going to happen). Instead, we must focus on getting stronger.  

These four mantras can help you unleash your inner strength, stay determined, persevere and ultimately overcome even the most difficult challenges.

Now, let’s turn this insight into action.

Which one of these four mantras resonates most given the challenges you’re working to overcome? 

What’s one small but meaningful action step can you take today?

Leave a comment below and let us know. 

Most importantly, stay positive. Opportunity is often hidden in our most difficult circumstances.

The post 4 Simple Mantras to Help You Overcome Any Challenge appeared first on .